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April's Congressional Cup will be the first post AC event in the Swedish Match Tour reports Rich Roberts

Thursday March 6th 2003, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
Life after the America's Cup for a handful of the world's best match racers starts with the 39th Congressional Cup April 8-12.

With the recent cancellation of the Steinlager Line 7 Cup in New Zealand, the Congressional Cup is the first major match-racing event on Swedish Match Tour 2002/2003 subsequent to the America's Cup. The Congressional Cup also is the only remaining U.S. stop on the nine-event circuit. A skipper’s best seven finishes count toward the overall Swedish Match Tour 2002/2003 prize purse of US$200,000.

The Congressional Cup is offering a $25,000 purse with $6,000 to the winner.

This year's field features two-time winner and 2002 runner-up Gavin Brady, who sailed with Italy's Prada at Auckland; Ken Read of Team Dennis Conner; Magnus Holmberg of Sweden's Victory Challenge, Luc Pillot of France's Le Defí, Australian James Spithill of Seattle's OneWorld and Paolo Cian of Italy's Mascalzone Latino.

Others who didn't sail in the America's Cup are Denmark's Jesper Radich and Jes Gram-Hansen, currently ranked Nos. 2 and 3 by the International Sailing Federation; 1994 winner Chris Law of the UK and Long Beach resident Scott Dickson, who expects to have older brother Chris as tactician in his seventh Congressional Cup as a skipper. Scott Dickson qualified by winning last fall's Ficker Cup. Chris Dickson is a two-time winner and the skipper of Oracle BMW's runner-up in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials for the America's Cup.

Oracle BMW's helmsman, Peter Holmberg, won four of the last five Congressional Cups but chose to sit this one out.

"After an intensive three-year America's Cup campaign, it is very important to take a break from racing," Holmberg said. "I am heading home to the [U.S.] Virgin Islands to see family and friends and think about my next chapter in life."

Peter Holmberg, no relation to Magnus, was ranked No. 1 before leaving the international tour to do the America's Cup, which ISAF does not count in its rankings. So while the status of the AC competitors suffered, Poland's Karol Jablonski, Radich and Gram-Hansen rose to the top of the list by continuing to compete in various events.

Jablonski remains No. 1 but turned down an invitation to the Congressional Cup.

Jablonski explained in an e-mail to chairman Don Warner: "Due to the unstable political situation in the Middle and Far East, we have to cancel our participation in this event. Since we would have to go by plane we are afraid of the threat of a terrorist attack."

The Congressional Cup again will be sailed on the Catalina 37 sloops built for the event. Each boat must have a minimum crew of six and a maximum combined crew weight of 1,200 pounds. The format will be a double round robin followed by best-of-three semifinals and finals. A short windward-leeward race course will be set near shore in the Long Beach outer harbor.

Congressional Cup winners:

1965 Gerry Driscoll
1966 Gerry Driscoll
1967 Scott Allan
1968 Skip Allan
1969 Henry Sprague III
1970 Argyle Campbell
1971 Tom Pickard
1972 Argyle Campbell
1973 Dennis Conner
1974 Bill Ficker
1975 Dennis Conner
1976 Dick Deaver
1977 Ted Turner
1978 Dick Deaver
1979 Dennis Durgan
1980 Dennis Durgan
1981 Rod Davis
1982 Scott Perry
1983 Dave Perry
1984 Dave Perry
1985 Rod Davis
1986 Harold Cudmore
1987 Eddie Warden-Owen
1988 Peter Gilmour
1989 Rod Davis
1990 Chris Dickson
1991 Chris Dickson
1992 Terry Hutchinson
1993 Rod Davis
1994 Chris Law
1995* Harold Cudmore
1996 Gavin Brady
1997 Gavin Brady
1998 Peter Holmberg
1999 Peter Holmberg
2000 Dean Barker
2001 Peter Holmberg
2002 Peter Holmberg

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